Cuauhtémoc Blanco’s Troops

Chicago 2 DC United 0

Blanco’s got the swagger and his team’s adopting that swagger too, and they’re starting to strut a bit. They’ve got five wins and they top the East over Columbus right now. Chicago’s got a nice little team and they’re playing well together, much like DC used to.

In tonight’s game it was DC United who had a lot of the ball but they couldn’t thread the needle. They’ve just made their goal scorer Luciano Emilio their designated player, but he’s not scoring these days cause he’s not getting much quality service. The defenders are trying to play the ball to him down the line and not to his feet or driven into his chest or head. And, what with all the goals he’s scored last year, teams aren’t giving him much space.

There’s not much click in this team these days. Their new signing Marcelo Gallardo, the Argentine, who scored an astoundingly professional volley, was sidelined with a groin injury. The player DC was perhaps missing more was Fred, and maybe even more was Christian Gomez (with Colorado now of course), and maybe even more they missed their engine and talisman and Dick’s commercial star, Ben Olsen. Haven’t heard much about when or if he’ll be back. Sadly, an ankle injury could end his career.

Chicago’s team looks like they’ve got their roles well defined, and with Blanco wearing the captain’s arms band, they’ve got a leader who only cares about winning. That’s what you want. And though I don’t have much love for the regular U.S. announcers, they sort of force feed you the game you already know, the same old refrain when you hear complaints about U.S. announcers, which is they’re always explaining the game and explaining it to death, just let it breath.

But Harkes I think alluded to the point about Blanco’s desire rubbing off on his teammates and his always asking for the pelota. (Is that Blanco’s exclusive trainer/translator/body guard that he was walking with towards the tunnel after the game?) Beckham I think brings the same desire to win and want of the ball, and that’s just good for the MLS, and for young players coming up behind them. Could I not mention Beckham in one article? Seems like his name is always mentioned whenever I write about the MLS. So it goes.

The funny thing is that Chicago players might try too hard to get the ball to Blanco, sort of forcing it at times. But that’s what’s great to see. They know who the man is on their club. They know to get him the ball and they’ll soon find a balance of when and how to get him the ball and take it themselves. There were just a few times where I saw players switch the ball when they could have played it to the feet of a player who was overlapping nearby, or they tried to play a ball into the middle since Blanco was running through. The idea was right though, and the next time the balls will get there or they’ll play the simple pass. I just like the energy.

Justin Mapp got the first goal and Blanco got the second. Mapp’s goal was a well-fired shot after the ball was headed back to him when he was gliding up the middle unmarked. A good cross to Barrett at the far post from Rolfe, and Barrett smartly headed back for Mapp. For Blanco, his goal too came from the middle but it was a bending drive into the upper corner as he muscled off a defender or two.

My appreciation for Blanco is only rising. Sure, he does complain and dive at times, but his intensity overrides that. He’s an interesting figure, all hunched over and block like. He’s not the sinewy silkiness of Robinho. He’s not the miniature brilliance of Messi.

Blanco is a hunchback who’s carved out his own greatness, bunny hop and all. Have we seen that yet in the MLS by the way? On top of everything, and maybe most important, Chicago looks like they’re having fun. I love how they all piled on Blanco after his goal. Winning makes everything fun though right.